Wits & Wagers

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Wits & Wagers Game Poster Image
Sly quiz game can be enjoyed by non-trivia buffs.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Fosters friendly competitive play between up to four players locally, six online. However, it does promote the concept of gambling -- for points, not money.

Violence
Sex
Language
Consumerism

This game is based on the trivia board game of the same name.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this game is based on the award-winning trivia board game of the same name. The questions are safe for the ears and eyes of younger players, and kids even stand a decent chance at beating older, more educated competitors, thanks to the game's quirky bet-on-the-right-answer system. That said, it does endorse the concept of gambling -- albeit with points instead of cash. Plus, it's very easy to stumble into playing the game online. Common Sense Media does not recommend online play for children under the age of 12. The game is best suited for adults and teenagers.

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What's it about?

WITS & WAGERS, a downloadable game available through Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade service, is based on a trivia board game of the same name, and the two versions are very nearly identical in design. The board game has won numerous awards including 2007 Best New Party Game from Games Magazine. The hook in both games is that you don't actually have to know the answers to any questions to win. Rather, you watch how everyone else responds to questions that, say, get players to guess the weight of the world's biggest sumo wrestler or the number of kilometers of coastline surrounding Canada, then bet on who you think has come up with an answer closest to the truth. Higher payouts are awarded those who wager on answers further from the mean of the player collective. Scores are tallied after seven questions, at which point a winner is named.

Is it any good?

While the Xbox 360 version of Wits & Wagers has all of the same basic rules as its real world counterpart, it suffers from a couple of exclusive problems. The first is that it supports relatively few players. The board game is best enjoyed in a large, party atmosphere with as many as 20 participants, but the virtual version is restricted to a maximum of four players in your living room. If you play online, the number of potential players raises to six, but that leads to the next problem, which is that you probably won't know your online opponents. That means your ability to gauge the likelihood of any of your competitors actually knowing what, say, the upper limit of potential barrels of bitumen in the Athabasca Tar Sands might be, is around zero. Playing against computer controlled opponents worsens the problem, since their answers are, by and large, completely random. In other words, the game becomes pure guesswork -- unless you actually happen to know the answers to the questions asked.

That said, if you can manage to get four players together to play the game in your living room (and you have four Xbox 360 controllers -- which won't necessarily be true for many players, since, unlike the Wii, Microsoft's console has few games that even support four players playing on the same system), you'll likely have plenty of fun. Games are refreshingly short -- less than 15 minutes -- and the learning curve is around two minutes. Indeed, players will likely understand the basics by the end of the first round. If nothing else, this inexpensive Xbox Live Arcade game, which costs just 800 Microsoft Points ($10) to download, ought to act as a good introduction to the award-winning board game, which, for the reasons outlined above, is the preferable way to play.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why there's no need to get discouraged about not knowing the answers to many quiz games questions. Discuss how queries in a game like Wits and Wagers are designed not to draw from one's general knowledge, but rather require specialized interest in particular fields of study. At the same time, parents can ask children about their interest in learning about various subjects and provide suggestions for methods to improve study and retention. Do you think that trivia games are an effective means of learning new kinds of information? Did you find Wits & Wagers to be educational? Can you recall any of the trivial facts or figures from the game?

Game details

  • Platforms: Xbox 360
  • Price: $10
  • Available online? Not available online
  • Developer: Microsoft
  • Release date: May 7, 2008
  • Genre: Party
  • ESRB rating: E

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